This is the second of a two-part story on the aftermath of ECOT's closure. Read part one here.
Beth Day, assistant principal of Washington High School, watches as students change classes in the main hallway. It’s a far cry from her nine years at the digital school ECOT.
“You know, you never dream that you go to bed one night and you’re employed and the next night you’re not,” Day says. “And for it to happen that quickly. I know that happens with big business, but that doesn’t typically happen in education.”
Day started as a teacher and intervention specialist, and later moved into ECOT administration during her final three years there.
When ECOT closed in January, Day quickly found a job at Washington City Schools. More than 600 students attend classes here.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for the Washington High alum. One of her duties is parent liaison.
“The funny thing is, the job here is the same,” says Day. "The job I have now and the job before is very similar. It’s just going about things much differently with the online environment. But I still help with student issues. I still help solve teacher problems.”
Day says her salary is similar to what she earned at ECOT, where she also paid into the state teacher’s retirement system.
Day says as an ECOT principal, she oversaw about 2,500 students and 7 assistant principals.
“I would say I communicated more in some ways with those students just because that was our lifeline, staying in contact with them,” Day says.
Day says she stays in touch with some of her former ECOT colleagues.
“Most teachers are now employed,” she says. “I think there’s still a handful probably that are still searching for something. Many of us who came from smaller areas, it was difficult to find something right away.”
Day says some of the teachers left the field because they were hurt over how ECOT closed.
Former ECOT teacher Paige Bihl suspected the school was in trouble and left last fall, months before it closed. She’s also at Washington High, teaching government and history.
Bihl says she’s glad to be back in her hometown.
“It was a very difficult decision,” Bihl says. “But I kind of felt that ECOT was going to close, and for the benefit of myself and my family, I couldn’t take that risk of losing my job and being on unemployment.”
Bihl says she taught math for five years at ECOT.
“ECOT was the best thing that ever happened to me and to my family,” she says. “And I’m really sad, not only that I left that and I don’t have that option anymore, but for the students."
Bihl says it’s obvious to her that online schools need to continue to be an option.
“Being back in the brick and mortar, I realized that some of these students need school choice - not some of them, a lot of them need school choice and we need to be able to provide a different outlet for them,” she says.